People routinely bargain and negotiate with one another. Each person will take their position, argue their points and try to make concessions thereafter in order to negotiate or bargain for a productive outcome to fit their needs. This analogy holds true for today’s modern family as well. In particular, bio parents negotiate with one another regarding issues of custody and visitation and often children of divorce use bargaining to effectuate their wants and needs between their parents as well.
As we all know, bargaining can of course also be a useful tool. However, it can at times work against us and become inefficient when dealing with modern family issues. For example, instead of following the court order regarding visitation (i.e., during holidays and school breaks), one parent or the other often re-negotiates the original agreement with the expectation that it will please everyone, only to be disappointed when the outcome goes awry. In this case, bargaining and negotiating the court order probably did more harm than good. As such, to avoid these type of issues, following the established court order is the best way to go.
Another example of ineffective bargaining is bargaining over positions in your modern family. For example, your wife has made an arrangement with her ex-husband and hasn’t consulted you. You state your position that you should be involved in every decision regardless of whether the outcome affects you personally or not when in fact, if the the outcome doesn’t involve you, it really isn’t necessary that the issue be discussed with you. However, this type of positional bargaining will always become a battle. Your husband won’t give in and you won’t either and now you have an all out war on your hands. Each task after that becomes conflicted because you both don’t want to change your positions. After which, the result ends in resentment and the original concern that got you there in the first place often get lost in space. Positional bargaining in your marriage can be detrimental for the mere fact that we are humans and we have strong emotions. Often, however, we allow our emotions to take over our perception of the actual issue or problem we are faced with. This particularly holds true for members of today’s modern family. If we decide to attack the problem instead of the person, we have effectively taken the “bargaining position” out of the problem and we can then effectively negotiate. As long as we are not owning problems that aren’t ours to own.
Lesson: Bargain or negotiate only over things that you can control within your family.
Furthermore, we have to keep in mind that negotiating in a bio/nuclear family is totally different than negotiating or bargaining in a modern/step family. In a bio/nuclear family, there are two adults with whom to negotiate and consider, and that’s the two biological parents. In a modern/step family there are at least three and sometimes four or more adults with whom to negotiate and consider, which often times makes negotiating way more difficult. The paradigm that I like to describe this with is it would be like playing chess with the rules of checkers. Communicating issues, concerns and options with the members of your modern family is fantastic and healthy, but knowing when the bargaining tactic is not useful helps as well.
One of the best books I have ever read on this issue is titled “Getting to Yes – Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher and William Ury. I read this book years ago when I was having issues with my ex. The book says, and I quote, “how you see the world depends on where you sit.” That is the most powerful statement in the book. The authors go on to say that each person in conflict usually can only see their side of a problem and also only see the faults of the other, however, it is the ability to see the situation as the other person sees it (whether it is your husband or wife, ex-spouses, children or step-children), as difficult as that may may be, is one of the most important values and skills you can ever possess.